Priority for soul-winning: place your head on the chest of Jesus

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By Bob Gabelman —

Worship on the Sunset Pier in Key West, Florida

“While others still slept, He went away to pray and to renew His strength in communion with His Father. He had need of this, otherwise He would not have been ready for the new day. The holy work of delivering souls demands constant renewal through fellowship with God.”9 —Andrew Murray

Acts 4:13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

Many people have asked me, “What is the most important essential in soul winning?”

My answer is always the same. “Your personal relationship with Jesus.” Nothing is more important in any work in the kingdom of God than our relationship with Jesus. When the Pharisees confronted Peter and John regarding a healing that took place at the Gate called Beautiful, they considered them uneducated, untrained, and ordinary or common men, as some translations put it. But they were amazed at their confidence and boldness, and they realized these men had been with Jesus. That is what makes the difference in our lives, being with Jesus. Just as John laid his head on Jesus’s chest at the Last Supper, we need to be laying our heads on His chest daily as we wait in His presence.

I am sure that most of God’s sons and daughters want to do great things for the kingdom of God. It is in our spiritual DNA to reach the world around us for the Kingdom of God. Who are those who will do great things?

Daniel 11:32b (NKJV) “. . . but the people that know their God shall be strong and do great exploits.”

The people who know their God! That Hebrew word is yada, which means to know intimately and personally, not just scholarly. Jesus will take ordinary people like us and so change us that He will do great things through us. Great exploits will follow those who know Jesus.

In order to share our faith effectively, we must have a growing personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We must know our Savior’s voice, we must know Him, and we must know His nature and His character. It is not enough to just know about Him. We must know Him. We grow in our relationship with Him in the secret places. Our prayer closets cannot remain empty day after day. It is in the quiet and secret places that we partake of the secret manna, the bread of life, Jesus, the bread of heaven. We also come to know Him through our devotion to His word, the Bible, and by our day-to-day walk with Him through our life experiences.

If we are not in personal relationship with Christ, the best we can hope for is give a book report about a historical figure. Our greatest aim should be to introduce those people in our realms of influence to the person—Jesus Christ. Christianity is not just coming into an agreement with a system of beliefs (a mental consent). It is not enough to just get the people we share with to agree with our doctrines. They need to have a head-on collision with Christ!

The Bible tells us they must believe with the heart. It is not enough to just receive the seed of the Gospel. In the parable of the seed sower, there were three types of soil that received seed, but only one which bore fruit. The seed must be received, and then we must take our stand upon it, that is put our faith in it. We must respond to the message. We will look more at this in a later chapter. People need to encounter Jesus through our presence because they need to have a head-on collision with Christ.

If I were to walk out on the highway tonight and step in front of a semitruck, it would change my life. If you were to come running out and peel me off the front grill, you might say, “Bob, you’ve changed! You’re not the same person you were a minute ago.” And you would be right. I would be different. I just got hit by a truck. The night I met Jesus Christ I had a head-on collision with Him. It did not just change my destiny in eternity, it changed my day-to-day destiny here on the earth. When I got down on that floor and cried out to Him from the depths of my heart, I was a lost sinner, a drug dealer, a liar, a cheat, and a thief. When I got up, I was no longer any of those things. I was changed.

I believe one reason we do not see lives change after conversion is the way we proclaim the Gospel message. Often our message sounds like this, “You do not want to go to that stinking hell, you want to go to Heaven. So if you believe in Jesus, you will go to Heaven. Now let us say this prayer together.” Now this is a truth, but it isn’t the whole truth. Yes, we are saved through our faith (believing) in His death and resurrection, through His grace, and not by anything we can do to earn or even deserve that grace. And it is totally God’s doing. Our salvation does make us partakers in the blessed hope of Heaven. But there is more. Let’s look at the message Jesus proclaimed.

Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus’s invitation was this: the time has come; it is now. The kingdom is at hand; it is here. Repent and believe this Good News! That is, repent and change the way you are thinking about the kingdom of God. It is not just off in some distant future, but it is here and now. Believe it, it is Good News. Do you see that Jesus’s invitation was to enter the kingdom, which is present and at hand? By sharing the invitation to enter into a relationship with Jesus and enter His kingdom here and now, and live by kingdom principles, we will see dramatic changes in new believers. Our invitation should sound like Jesus’s invitation.

Matthew 11:28–30 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Come to Me, connect with Me, and learn from Me. That is His first calling for all people. Connect with Me. That is the significance of the word yoke. He has a second calling for everyone who responds to the first calling. Follow Me! Get yoked with me!

If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him (John 12:26).

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John 10:27).

In the four Gospels, this invitation is repeated 20 times. “Follow me.” “My sheep, hear my voice,” which indicates relationship. “I know them, they hear Me, and they follow Me.” This is our calling, our invitation to pursue a relationship with Jesus day by day. It has been in my day-to-day relationship with Jesus, daily leaning my head on His chest, learning the sound of His voice, that He has prepared me to be a soul-winner.

We need to be ready in season and out of season, at any time, to share our faith.

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).

For many years of my Christian life, I have set apart time specifically to go into public places to share this wonderful message. Before I go out on the streets to share my faith, I go to my room, lie on the floor, and wait on the presence of Jesus. I just wait, and rest, and soak in His presence. I want to, I need to, I must be filled with His presence. I believe it is my responsibility in soul-winning for people to have an encounter with the presence of Jesus. His presence is what will change them. Our message is important, and it has great power, but it really is a simple message. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that empowers our message. As I go, I remain conscious of the Holy Spirit. I hear His voice, and I follow His voice. Sometimes He directs me where to go. Mostly I look for the people He is pointing out. When I see them, I know by the Holy Spirit’s leading to approach and speak to them. It does not always mean they will be saved. But I always believe it will be significant.

One night as I walked down the street, I saw a young woman on a pay phone. You know it was long ago, as there are not many pay phones these days. The phone was in front of a real fleabag hotel where truly indigent people stayed. As I approached, I sensed the Holy Spirit moving in me to speak with her. But since she was on the phone, I did not want to be creepy and just hang out nearby. I walked the remainder of the block, intending to turn around and walk back. As I came back toward her, she hung up the phone and moved toward the entrance of the hotel. As she arrived at the threshold, I called out to her, and she stopped and started toward me.

I thanked her for waiting, and she said, “I wanted to talk to you.” About five years earlier, she told me, I had engaged her and three others in a conversation on the streets. She told me they had just taken their $700 rent money and spent it on crystal meth. She said to me, “When we met you, we were really high, and we treated you shamefully with a lot of disrespect.”

I did not remember that discussion. But then she recounted something I’d said to her that I often say to people in discussions that do not seem to end well. I will tell them, “Please remember this. Wherever you are, whatever you have done, whatever situation you may find yourself in in the future, if you will cry out to Jesus, He will hear you and save you.”

She told me she noticed that no matter how badly they treated me, she could see I really loved and sincerely cared for them. Throughout the next day, she considered our meeting and thought about the things that were said. She received the seed but did not follow up with faith.

Life just went on from there, and she ended up pregnant by her boyfriend a few months later. About a year after our chance meeting, she had a baby girl. As time went by, she, her baby, and her boyfriend moved to Minnesota. After a few years, her relationship with him was failing. He was drinking a lot and was beating her regularly.

One Friday night, on his payday, in the dead of winter, he came home late, very drunk. He began to beat her and knocked her down onto the kitchen floor. As she lay on the floor, blood from the beating ran down her forehead into her eyes. In that moment she remembered what I had told her the night we met. “Wherever you are, whatever you have done, whatever situation you may find yourself in in the future, if you will cry out to Jesus, He will hear you and save you.” So, she screamed, “Jesus, help me! Jesus, save me!” Her boyfriend freaked out and ran out of the house. As she lay there, something happened inside of her. Something changed in her. She gathered up her three-year-old daughter and the few things she could carry and ran out of the house. She caught a bus back to Colorado, and now here we were standing on the sidewalk talking. She told me she reached her younger brother, who was living in the same dysfunction, and the three of them were living in a room at this hotel. Upon getting a job at 7-Eleven, she intended to change things for her family.

I was in tears. We talked about what she had felt after calling out to Jesus, and I affirmed that what she had felt was His presence and the new birth. Oh, and by the way, just before I saw her on the pay phone that night, I was wondering to myself if I was making a difference out there on the streets.

I have always tried to rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit in street ministry: where I should go, whom I should speak to. I spent three and a half years witnessing on Colfax Avenue in Denver, near the Colorado State Capitol. It was an area full of homeless people, drunkards, pushers, pimps, prostitutes, 24-hour dirty bookstores, murderers—yes, murders—and about anything else you could imagine or not imagine. The people there came to know me, and I came to know them. They called me “da Preacher.”

One night I encountered a drug dealer I knew, who was walking with a nicely dressed gentleman in a fine leather black jacket and pants. I reached my hand out to greet him, asking how he was doing. I walked behind the two for a few steps, and the guy in the leather jacket asked, “Who is that dude?”

The pusher man said, “Oh he’s all right, he’s da Preacher.” Others around there called me Jesus Man. Yeah, people would say all the time, “Jesus Man, would you leave me alone!” Or “Jesus Man, would you get outta here!” So I was Jesus Man.

Well, on this Friday night, as I walked along, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Turn around now and go the other way.” I turned around and began to walk the way I had just come. The buildings along there were two or three stories, mostly old commercial buildings with a lot of nightclubs and bars, as would be expected in this environment. As I walked by an alley between two buildings, a man exited and bumped into me. I handed him my I.O.U. LOVE ministry card and told him, “Jesus sent me here to tell you He loves you.”

The guy went off like a bomb. He cursed me, cursed God, and screamed like a madman. Then he swung at me and landed a punch in my jaw. Now this is a very public street, and lots of people were out that Friday night. And “da Preacher” just got punched. So, being a pretty smart fellow, I stood back about five feet while he continued to rant and rave. I figured that should be a good buffer, seeing as he had about a three-foot reach and maybe a two-foot lunge. At some point he had to pause for a breath. When he did, I said, “Man! God sent me here to help you!”

The atmosphere changed drastically again, but I was bewildered by what was taking place. Now he stood there and began to cry, I mean really weep, repeating over and over, “I don’t want to go to hell! I don’t want to go to hell.”

He finally calmed down enough for me to ask, “Man, what’s going on?” Then he told me his story. About a year earlier, he was living in Wyoming. He and his buddy were out partying in a wilderness area on a Friday night. Liquor was flowing, and they got into a fight. He pushed his buddy down, breaking his head open. His buddy died, and he had been on the run ever since.

Wow, that was quite a story, and it shed some light on the range of emotions he had just experienced. I began to share with him the Good News, and he calmed down further. I asked him if he could feel peace right then, and he said he did. He could not remember when he had last felt peace. We prayed, and I told him Jesus could forgive his sin, but he still owed a debt to society. He would have more peace in a prison cell, I told him, than out here on the run. He refused my offer to take him to the police station where he could begin to make things right. Clearly, the Holy Spirit had a sense of great urgency in turning me around. God our Father had not given up on this man.

I teach that there are three elements in proclaiming the Gospel, and I call them “the three Ps”: presence, proclamation, and persuasion. We have been talking about the first “P,” presence, the presence of Jesus. It is of greatest importance that people encounter the presence of Jesus in our witnessing. Presence also includes our actions, which should reflect those of our Heavenly Father and of His Son Jesus. We should ask ourselves, What did Jesus do? Our actions can be a great benefit or a great harm to our message. Remember one of the glorious characteristics of God is His lovingkindness. Lovingkindness is attributed to God 171 times in the Old Testament.

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord , the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Exodus 34:6).

For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations (Psalms 100:5).

He abounds in lovingkindness; His lovingkindness is everlasting. This means God loves to perform acts of kindness toward us. It is His glory to do kind things for us. As representatives of His kingdom, we ought to do the same, letting our actions proclaim the practical aspect of His presence. Let us make sure our message includes acts of kindness.

Our relationship with Jesus should be our greatest passion in life. Let us look at the Apostle Paul’s example in those famous verses found in Philippians 3:10 . . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you.

—Philippians 3:10–15

Paul’s passion is evident in these statements: “that I may know Him; I press on; reaching forward; and again, pressing on.” I can hear the heart of the Apostle. “I want to know Him; I am pressing on to know Him; I’m straining to know Him.” I see a passionate pursuit of Jesus.

Consider that Paul was not a new believer, a novice Christian, displaying hunger for more of Jesus. This is Paul the aged, the longtime faithful servant. This is Paul who was fundamental in expanding the Church of Jesus Christ throughout Asia Minor and Europe. This is Paul who wrote a large portion of our New Testament. This is Paul who worked powerful miracles, including raising people from the dead. When Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians, he was in Rome, under house arrest, awaiting his trial. He was near the end of his life. History tells us he had two or three years left before his martyrdom. And here we find his passionate plea, “I want to know Him!” We need to maintain this same passion for Jesus. Each and every day we need this same hunger for His presence. I want to know Him!

Several years ago, I was in Cuba working with our ministry leaders in illegal churches in the center of the island, the city of Camaguey. I had been arrested and interrogated for four and a half hours over two days after speaking to a gathering of 120 pastors. I was teaching the contents of this book. After a two-and-a-half-hour morning session, a government agent from the Ministry of the Interior came to arrest me. I was not arrested because of the poor quality of my teaching but for teaching this material.

After the second day of interrogations, three of our ministry’s Mexican staff and I were ordered to return to Havana and report to a high-ranking official. Then we were ordered to leave Cuba as soon as possible, which would take four days. Initially, we were put under house arrest in our hotel. I requested permission for us to tour Havana while we waited deportation. The official’s only stipulation was that we could have no further contact with the pastors we had been working with. We gave him our word. Over the next three days, we left our hotel each morning and walked through the city. I wore my camera slung over my shoulder, having stuffed my camera bag full of Spanish New Testaments, tracts, and other literature. Off we went, to see the city and the people in it. But okay, we were actually hitting the streets in groups of two to share the Gospel.

On one of those mornings, we walked along the Malecon, which means the waterfront. It was breathtakingly beautiful. We met a man who was crippled and began to share with him. He told us he had been crippled when he was hit by a bus while riding his bike.

I asked him if getting hit by a bus changed his life in any way. He said it changed his life in every way. I asked him if he would like his life to change like that again, in every way. He said yes, he would. We shared Jesus with him and introduced him to Christ. He was a new person standing right in front us, deeply thankful to receive the hope of Heaven and a Bible. We take for granted all the Bibles in our homes that are so easily available to us. Many people in this world do not have the luxury of a readily available Bible.

On the same day, a little further along the waterfront at the entrance to the Havana harbor, a group of young men in their early twenties asked us for money. Everyone asks you for money in Cuba. It is apparently a custom in Cuba to give a coin to someone on their birthday. Everywhere we went, people told us it was their birthday. I wondered how so many people had the same birthday. I eventually realized it was their strategy to get a coin from us.

Well, I told these young men we really did not have any money, but we had something better. “What do you have that is better than money?” asked a young man in behalf of the whole group.

“We have Jesus Christ,” I answered. The group was a bit rowdy when we approached, but when I responded to their question, they quickly calmed down and got profoundly serious with us.

The young spokesman looked me squarely in the eye and said, “I have heard of Jesus, but I do not know how to have him in my heart.” Whoa, what an invitation to share Christ. The whole group of around nine young men listened attentively and respectfully to our message. Afterward, eight of the nine prayed with us to receive Him as Savior and Lord. We gave out the rest of the Bibles we had with us that day. Over three days, we prayed with 25 people to receive Christ as Savior. Not only that, but I also recall four or five divine healings in which people gave testimony and evidence of their healings.

Next, we will look at the second essential in soul-winning: compassion–a burden for lost souls. This essential is a direct fruit of the first essential, passion for Jesus. Compassion for the lost springs out of our passion for and relationship with Jesus.

We need men so possessed by the Spirit of God that God can think His thoughts through our minds, that He can plan His will through our actions, that He can direct His strategy of world evangelization through His Church.

 

 

The preceding is an excerpt from Bob Gabelman’s book, “The Day of Good News,” available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Xulon Press. For more information about how you can begin to evangelize like Gabelman – one soul at a time – or to support the ministry, email him at [email protected] or [email protected]